Mohamed received a scholarship for a residency at the Atelier des Artistes en Exil.


What is your artistic background?

I don't have an arts degree, no artistic background as such. I became a poet, a writer while in exile. I started writing in Libya, without any particular intentions. I always wrote in French: little texts that I posted on Facebook, about what I had seen in the desert, about what was happening in Libya. At the time I started writing about Libya, the government was still stable (it was before the fall of Gaddafi), there were very few testimonies, few exiles in the true sense of the word (people who had fled because they had no choice), there were foreigners who came to the country to work. I had encouraging comments on my Facebook texts. People who had experienced the same thing, who recognised themselves in the texts because I put words to routes, events, feelings. That made me want to continue. I published a text every twenty days. I talked about injustice, about the daily situation in Libya towards foreigners in general. In Libya, contempt is fully accepted and very much part of life. There are many injustices in Libyan society. I was writing mostly about that. To reveal the reality, more than to denounce it. I wasn't committed as an activist, but I was still committed on Facebook through my texts. The majority of my friends on Facebook were French-speaking Africans who were in Chad and Libya. As my life had always been very complicated, I started writing an autobiography. I started by talking about my father, about my life as a child in Sudan and then in Chad. I developed deeper writing work about migration. Especially after the fall of Gaddafi, when the situation became very complex in Libya. I have seen atrocious things. It was a nightmare, a horrible reality. I saw a lot of deaths, attacks, violence. I continued to write about all this (rapes in poor families, attacks on poor people, voluntary electricity cuts). I even made videos that I posted on Facebook. I had problems myself, my Facebook account was deleted because my photos were so shocking. I lost everything, all my photos, all my texts. I continued to write in a small notebook. But I lost this notebook during the Mediterranean crossing. 


How do you see your profession today?

All my texts are inspired by my experience, by what I have known. I have lived through everything I tell in my texts. Undead,for example: I have seen so many dead people in my life, during my journey, that I couldn't believe I was still alive. I felt dead. Then when I arrived in Italy I felt alive again. I don't define myself as an artist. I didn't choose to be an artist, I chose to be the one who speaks for others. After living on the streets in Paris, I was housed by charities. And it was when I finally found myself in safety, in a flat, in the warm, the calm, after my journey from Libya, that I began to write again about all that, about the undocumented, about the horror of the journey of the undocumented. I decided to express myself.


How do you see yourself in five years? In 10 years?

My future projects are two books: Au Coeur de l'Asile, les Raisons de l'Exode(testimonies, autobiography and poetry) and another more political book (a letter to Africans which will deal with dictatorship, ethnic problems and conflicts, slavery, neo-colonialism). I would like to sing my texts, work with musicians and artists, put my texts into images and continue to work on the same themes: exile, undocumented migrants, migration. 


This interview was conducted in 2017

Photo credit: Antonin Amy-Menichetti